Like agitating Siri until he becomes impolite, brushing a toddler’s teeth is an impossible task.
Milo is prepared to: squeeze toothpaste directly from the tube into his mouth, suck the bristles of his toothbrush to extract remnant toothpaste flavour, carry his toothbrush around and stab the cats with it, brush my face with his toothbrush, deposit Kuepps’ toothbrush into the cats’ water bowl, brush my face with my toothbrush and post Kuepps’ toothbrush into the cupboard with all the candles in it.
Brushing he will not do. There can be no agitation of any kind of bristles on enamel. If such a manoeuvre is attempted Milo will purse his lips together, shake his head wildly side to side and slip immediately out of your arms and onto the ground as if he has spontaneously liquefied.
We have convinced ourselves the magic of toothpaste is such that brushing is actually a nice to have. The real benefit comes from swilling the toothpaste around in your mouth, or better still, eating it. But in the sub-cockle area of our hearts we know this to be false; and Judgement Day is coming.
As a new parent there are a number of big milestones in the first year; among these are the 4 big check-up/ vaccine delivery days (2 month, 4 month, 6 month and 12 month). These are the days when the project you have been working on at home is presented to the public; like going on a month holiday, working on a beard then unveiling it to your colleagues for assessment. These are exciting and trepidatious days.
Unlike the holiday-beard example however, the baby assessors (otherwise known as doctors) are overwhelmingly complimentary, encouraging and positive during this first year. Any vague concerns about weight, blotchiness, hygiene, ear-wax etc are readily explained away by the inexperience and fatigue of the parents. The holiday-beard example would sound something like this “Howard, overall your beard looks really terrific. Those bald patches around your cheeks and the dirty ginger/ grey mis-colouration around your chin are nothing to worry about. I am sure given time it will all thicken up and assume a homogeneous colour. You’re doing great”.
We have heard rumours however, from parents a few months ahead of us, that the ‘under 8s everybody receives a participation trophy’ attitude ends at the 18 month check-up; and for Milo that is only 6 weeks away.
All of a sudden we are growing concerned that Milo brushing my face with his toothbrush is probably unlikely to reduce or eliminate the plaque build-up on his teeth. Will the baby assessor accept the argument that he has a second set on its way so what’s the big deal?
Our self-consciousness about this major unveiling is also straying outside the sphere of dental hygiene. What is the optimum percentile for weight? Does the 90th imply we are really great at feeding him or really bad at running him?
What about scars and bruises on his legs and arms? What is the optimum number that says “I protect my child but allow him the freedom to develop physically as an independent human?”
Does a bit of skin pigment let the assessor know we are mindful of Milo’s vitamin D intake, or that we are sunscreen negligent in one of the most fearsome UV environments on the planet?
And what of language? I can only imagine there will be surreptitious language testing resulting in some kind of score being applied to our child, and thereby to us. On this metric we are unlikely to do score highly.
Although Milo’s understanding is developing by the day, and he is a master of compelling ‘non-verbals’, the three languages currently being thrown at Milo are slowing him down. His vocabulary remains as follows:
Mummy = mummy
Daddy = daddy
Ball = ball
Nani = banana
Boo-eah = dummy
Da = light or fan or thank you
Dadadada = bird
Baa = dog or sheep, but mostly dog
Gatgia = cat (a derivation of the Spanish gatita)
Dodo = car, or bicycle or truck (a derivation of the German auto)
Mimi = his ride-on fire-truck, or ride-on busy bee, or trolley
Gaga = his tummy
Moremore = More or some or do that again
And that’s about it. All adorable but unlikely to score us strong assessor points.
So where does that leave us? Only time will tell; but meanwhile we are running a tight regime of mock weigh-ins under various climatic conditions and altitudes, facilitating bare-chested solar gain but only at dawn and dusk, dressing Milo in tights before embarking on walks upon uneven surfaces and visiting the zoo a lot to practice some big ticket items like “elephant, monkey and scimitar-horned oryx”.
Whatever the 18 month baby-assessor check-up equivalent of “Howard, go home and shave that thing off immediately. Seriously I just can’t look at it” is… the three of us are working hard to avoid.